There are a few days that are “supposed” to be the best day of your life. Graduations, big birthdays, childbirth, weddings… But for neurodiverse peoples those days are often the hardest. While I am stuck in my sick bed I have been doing a lot of instagram scrolling, a lot of swiping through my own pictures, and I happened upon all my wedding photos… and I got some… feelings.
Yes, of course, I had happy feelings. But I also remembered the reality of that day. Of how so, so many things went wrong. Of how I literally had to escape my guests and hide in a back hallway to deal with the sensory overload. How I got to talk to so many people that loved, but also how I HAD to talk to so many people that I loved…
So I want to share the reality of some of those beautiful photos… and for those of you that are perhaps neurodiverse, especially the socially anxious, and yet to be married, I want to give you some real wedding day survival tips to put on your “one day” pinterest page.
So first- the reality. My wedding was adorable. It’s true. I’m not going to pretend it wasn’t cute and entirely handmade. But it was not perfect.
We had it in this beautiful historic operahouse in Woodstock, Illinois. (It’s where they shot Groundhog’s Day with Bill Murray, at one point we thought about having our wedding be Bill Murray themed but then the artist/bridezilla part of me vetoed that.)
I went a little insane, of course. I mean, I am a theatre director, playwright, artist, decorator, and general stationary enthusiast. Of course I was going to go crazy. (There was a prenuptial crisis involving not one but two antique typewriters, but that is a whole other story. A good lesson on fixation and relationships, so I will save that for later.)
But I also legit had some mental health crises on the day itself. Especially when it comes to mistakes. Maybe you don’t understand that…
Let’s go a little Instagram Vs. Reality to show you what I mean. Starting with something simple… the table settings.
A lot went into just these few little pictures. My mother thrifted hundreds of pieces of vintage china just so we wouldn’t have to have plastic plates. There is nothing wrong with plastic plates but my sensory issues made it so that I would be uncomfortable with them. (Also I think my mother’s taste level made it impossible to have plastic plates but that’s a whole other thing.)
As for the flowers I had a mix of hundreds of handmade paper flowers with a minimal amount of my real favorite flowers- Ranunculus. This wasn’t a terrible hardship because it was something that my hyperfocus just ate up in the months before the wedding. I was a paper flower machine.
Those glitter stickers on the table numbers smelled so much like adhesive that they almost gave me a sensory meltdown every time I touched them, but I was determined to have them. I also handmade the gold stands that kept the number upright and the flowers contained in the wine glass.
And just setting up those tables came with a lot of trauma memories of the day– we couldn’t find the flatware. My mother and I got into an argument in front of friends. The venue didn’t give us enough time to finish setting up, so key details were left out. My husband said he would put up the pictures of us in the new frames but forgot to put the pictures IN the frames, so we had photo models on our family photo table. Even just thinking about it gives me anxiety.
I’m laughing, I’m happy, but I’m also having mild heart arrhythmia because half of the planned decorations and reception events will not be happening. There is also no music for dancing because of a miscommunication with the venue. Shits gonna get awkward people.
And though my hair and makeup are beautiful, and done by my sister. They aren’t actually what I wanted. Essentially, I let my sister tell me what I wanted because she didn’t want me to look like “everyone else” on their wedding day. So, in a funny twist, when I tried to unmask for my wedding day, I capitulated to looking like what someone else wanted me to look like. I don’t mourn over this too much because the hair and makeup were something I wanted to share with my sister. So this one doesn’t haunt me like some of the rest.
Okay, that looks pretty adorable- BUT I asked for two things from the operahouse coordinator and their technical director, no black curtain, and no purple lighting. They gave me black curtains and purple lighting.
So a tip for you neurodiverse people, don’t be “easy going and flexible” be specific. People want direction, so instead of being afraid of being judged for your opinions (hello RSD!) know that you will be appreciated for your clarity. This was probably my biggest mistake.
My other mistake was trying to exert too much control over all the details. I love details, most autistic ADHD folks do. But you can get lost in the details, so make sure that you have a very clear direction so that others can help you OR a lot of prep time to do it all yourself. I had neither. So I had a lot of scrapped details that I spent months producing. That still makes me a little sad.
Okay, so it was still wonderful to have all the people we loved in one place. Even if parts of the evening were a hot mess- the caterer was late, the music and the dancing were cut out because of technical problems, the wedding bingo cards I made were useless, my mother inexplicably made my students do the dishes- I’m still not sure how that happened- and I had to spend a good five minutes alone in a hallway to get my sensory self back together. (Not entirely alone, my adorable twin students that I had in my wedding party came to check on me and sit with me. Such sweet girls. I’m sure they had no idea what was up, but they just loved me without reservation.)
One thing that I would suggest more than anything is to take the time to do photos with just you and your partner. This allows you to get away from your guests just long enough to recharge. I wish I had done this a little bit more than we did. Maybe I wouldn’t have needed that back hallway escape had I taken my time to recharge.
Also, enjoy yourself! I definitely still enjoyed having all the people I adored in one place. No matter how overwhelmed or anxious I was about the things that didn’t turn out right, the people were still wonderful. I was still marrying the person I loved more than anyone else in the world.
And honestly, if that is still not enough of a reason to have a big wedding, have a destination wedding with just your nearest and dearest. I really wish I had done that sometimes. Yes, I would have missed out on having all those people be apart of my life, and that was beautiful, but I also would have been more comfortable. So make sure that you weigh all options before doing what you are “supposed” to do.
After this fun send off, we realized that we had nowhere to run off to, because we were too tipsy to drive like we had planned. So we crossed the picturesque square to a bar with a bunch of our friends to have another drink in our wedding attire. It was pretty priceless, actually.
Notice how much shorter I am? I am barefoot and carrying my shoes. I remember walking across the famous Woodstock gazebo in my stockings, laughing and happy.
That’s a good memory. One without a picture.
And that’s apart of reality too.